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New law increases threshold for SMA projects

By Staff | Jul 14, 2011

When testifying on the bill, Maui County Planning Director William Spence told state lawmakers that the former SMA valuation added “unnecessary costs and delays to property owners, both large and small.”

WAILUKU — Now in effect, House Bill 117 raised the threshold of projects required to have special management area major permits from $125,000 to $500,000.

The new threshold allows smaller commercial and residential projects to go forward with construction without having to go through a lengthy SMA major permit process.

“I proposed and supported this change because state law needed to be updated for the sake of free enterprise,” said Maui County Mayor Alan Arakawa.

“For years, the cost of materials and labor has risen, but this SMA permit threshold has remained the same.

“Now, homeowners can remodel their kitchens and store owners can redesign their shops without going through an unnecessary and cumbersome SMA major process.

Planners across the state showed their support for HB 117, saying that the $125,000 value had not been modified since 1991.

City and County of Honolulu Department of Planning and Permitting Director David Tanoue stated in written testimony that the former threshold was “woefully outdated, unnecessarily burdensome and fundamentally meaningless.

In the final version of HB 117, state legislators wrote that its purpose was to “expedite and facilitate work on projects that have been or may be stalled due to delays relating to special management area permitting requirements.

The Legislature incorporated other provisions into the bill. While HB 117 increases the valuation for SMA major permits to $500,000, it also puts a limit on the size of single-family residences that fall within the exemption range.

Homes of less than 7,500 square feet, with a valuation of less than $500,000, will be exempt from SMA permitting requirements altogether. Larger homes, depending on their valuation, will still be required to obtain either SMA minor or major permits.

Mayor Arakawa proposed the threshold change as part of the Hawaii Council of Mayor’s legislative package.

He said this bill could not have been passed without the hard work of state legislators and Maui County Department of Planning officials.

“Representative Angus McKelvey and his fellow legislators should be congratulated by the entire state for pushing this through,” Arakawa said. “We would also like to thank Senator Glenn WakaMcLeani for his hard work introducing the Senate version of this bill, which unfortunately did not pass.

“And many thanks to Planning Director Will Spence and Deputy Director Michele for their invaluable input on the drafting of this bill.”